Spotting Online Dating Scammer Photos

One of the most exciting parts about online dating is checking out the pictures of the pretty girls and cute guys that you’re interested in. And while most of these pictures are authentic and belong to the person posting them, that’s not always the case. Sometimes, people have a temptation to use photos that are not them, doctor up their own photos, or straight-up try and scam people through the use of fake photos.

Thankfully, there are ways you can spot these fake dating profile photos by knowing what to look for and using some resources and tools available. In this guide, we’re going to teach you exactly how to do that.

Is Using Fake or Altered Photos in Online Dating Wrong?

Before we get started, we want to make sure we answer this important question. Thankfully, the answer is an easy and definitive one. Yes, it is always wrong to use photos that are not of you. It’s also wrong to edit your photos to make yourself look different than you really look in person. And one step further, if your online dating photos aren’t current, that’s a problem to.

The entire point of putting up pictures on your online dating profile is to show other potential matches an honest view of what you look like.

How to Spot Fake Online Dating Photos

1. Trust your instincts.

The best advice we can give you to spot fake profiles and photos online is to trust your gut. If it feels wrong, it probably is wrong. Yes, there are some incredibly attractive people dating online, but if the pictures seem too good to be true, at least have your guard up and be a bit more skeptical. It’s possible you stumbled on a real looker, but just be careful and always trust your intuition.

2. Look for continuity.

Do all of the photos look like they’re of the same person? Does the guy or girl look totally different in every picture? Sometimes, this is just someone who likes to change their look a lot and might be showing off all sides of them (which is okay). However, it also might be the sign that something is not right. It can be tough for scammers to get several photos of the same person, so they might try and piece together several that look similar but are of different people.

3. Have you seen them before?

Surprisingly, a lot of people who are catfishing or using fake online dating profiles will use ones from someone else on the very same site! If you see the same photos on multiple profiles, someone is not telling the truth. Yes, there is the small chance that someone created a profile and then accidentally created a second one, but that is unbelievably rare (especially with the same current photos). Keep in mind, though, that most likely one person with the photos is real and the other is the catfish or scammer.

Google, the clear leader in search engine technology, has a tool where you can search the internet by using a picture. What this can help you do is see if a picture has been pulled from somewhere else on the internet. Keep in mind that if someone has their pictures publicly on the internet they might show up here. But if you search someone and it takes you to a stock image site or some advertisement, something is probably wrong.

Here’s how to use Google Reverse Image Search.

  1. Download the image you want to search. On some online dating sites, you can right click and then select save image as to download. Others, you might have to take a screenshot and then crop the image down to show just the image you want to search.
  2. Navigate to the Google Reverse Image Search page.
  3. Drag and drop the image you want to search into the search bar.
  4. Look to see if there are any results that come up.

Keep in mind with this tip, and all the other ones on this page, that just because you get the indicator that something might be off or you don’t get that indicator, doesn’t mean the answer is definitive. For example, if you reverse image search an image and nothing comes up, it doesn’t necessarily mean 100% that the person you’re talking to is using their own real photos. You have to use all of these tips and tools in conjunction to determine whether or not you believe their pictures are real.

5. Validate before you meet.

If you really want to be sure that the person you’re talking to is the person they say they are, request a unique photo of them doing something obscure. It’s probably best to do this right before you meet after talking for a while. Otherwise, most people probably won’t want to put in the effort to validate themselves.

Here’s an example. Let’s say you’ve been chatting with someone from an online dating site for a while and you’re ready to meet in person. To be safe, though, you want to make sure they are who they say they are. You could request them to take a picture holding up four fingers and sticking their tongue out. If they can send you that and they look like the same person, the chances are incredibly high they are who they say they are.

6. Phone a friend.

If you think something might be wrong, ask a friend to take a peek for you. Don’t lead your friend into thinking something is wrong (because they’ll probably just agree with you), but show them the profile and see what they think. After they give their initial reaction, share your concerns and see what they think.

7. Zoom and filters.

Sometimes, people like to doctor up their photos to make themselves look as good as possible. While basic edits for lighting and things like that are probably okay, anything beyond that is probably not fair to the person on the other end of the line.

One way you can look for people doing this is by zooming in on photos. Most people aren’t experts in photo editing and are probably not enlisting the help of a paid expert. What this means is that it should be fairly easy to spot things that have been altered. You’ll see blurriness, unnatural lines, or things that just don’t look real.

Additionally, keep an eye out for heavy filter use. While this is something you’ll probably see a lot that might not be an issue, it can be someone trying to hide some things in their photos. Use your best judgment, and if all else fails, request some pictures without heavy filters.

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Author: Matt Seymour, MSF

Matthew J. Seymour is a dating industry expert with over a decade of experience coaching singles, reviewing dating apps, and analyzing trends within the industry. Matt is a published author with his most recent work “Get More Dates: How to Master Online Dating Apps” that hit shelves in 2023. With a Masters of Science in Finance (MSF) degree from the University of Florida and extensive knowledge of the innerworkings of the online dating industry, Matt frequently serves in an advisory role to some of the largest dating apps on the market. In Matt’s current role with Healthy Framework, he leads the interview team that regularly interviews key dating industry leaders, and leverages his financial knowledge and dating app experience to review and share what singles need to know to get the most out of dating online.